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Tuesday, February 27, 2024 - 18 Adar I 5784
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A Cruse of Oil in Mumbai
by Yosef Y. Jacobson
Last night, the first night of Chanukah 5769 (2008), as my own menorah was burning, I watched a clip on one of the websites showing Moshe Holtzberg kindling his father’s menorah in Afulah, Israel. 2-year-old Moshe, whose parents were sadistically murdered three weeks ago in the Mumbai Chabad House, was now standing near his nanny Sandra, and his grandparents, lighting the Menorah his father Gabi would use each Chanukah to generate light in Mumbai, India.
When you gaze into this innocent child eyes, it is not difficult to see how much he has endured during the last 25 days since that unforgettable night when two monsters entered into his own home and tortured and destroyed his entire family. Standing near the blood wrenched bodies of his beloved parents, Moshe shouted Sandra! Sandra! She, subjecting her own life to save suffering and death, ran up and saved the beautiful child from mutilation and death.
Now, little Moshe was in Israel, surrounded by his loving grandparents, and his nanny, attempting to rekindle the light which has been extinguished in his own life.
Wiping tears away, I recalled the famous passage in the Talmud about the festival of lights.
"What is Hanukkah?" asks the Talmud (1). The answer given is this:
"When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they contaminated all its oil. Then, when the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over them, they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil that was sealed with the seal of the High Priest — enough to light the menorah (candelabra) for a single day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days. The following year, they established these as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving."
That is the story of Chanukah. It is not so much a story about military victory, as much as it is a story about a single cruse of oil through which the Jewish menorah was relit. What gave Chanukah its timeless relevance was not the physical victory (this was undone in a single century, when Rome conquered Israel), but about the power of a small jug of oil to recreate a people, to generate a new consciousness and to redefine a destiny.
When the Pakistani monsters entered the Sanctuary in Mumbai, an oasis of faith in a turbulent city, an island of goodness in a difficult region-- they too, like the ancient Syrian Greeks, destroyed all of its oil, all of its pure and holy souls, people who were using their resources–-like oil--to kindle lights each day of their lives, to embrace hearts, to ignite sparks, to study, teach and give to others. Each person cut down in that Chabad House was a beacon of light in his or her own unique way.
After 48 hours of horror, the beautiful home was desecrated and contaminated. Currents of love were replaced by rivers of blood. Holy bodies and holy books were reduced to fragments. The oil and the light it generated were now gone.
But one cruse of oil survived -- “a single cruse of pure oil that was sealed with the seal of the High Priest.” One 2-year-old survivor, sealed with the seal of great holiness and purity, with the seal of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a spiritual High Priest in our age, who sent him and his parents to Mumbai to cast light on their surroundings.
Moshe Holtzberg’s birth was a miracle, as was his survival. He is our own miraculous cruse of oil; the living remnant of a desecrated Temple.
And just as during the first Chanukah, this little cruse of oil has the power to inspire us to rebuild our own menorah, to recreate a new consciousness in the Jewish world – one of deep unity and love, in which the discord and conflict which existed between communities and individuals for so many years will be banished as we recall the type of love and dedication Moshe’s home bestowed upon so many thousands of people of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.


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